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FIRST LOOK: Ray Ozzie's Talko cloud calling/messaging iPhone app

Bob Brown | Sept. 24, 2014
Here's a quick look at the new Talko app for group discussion.


I never did use Ray Ozzie's Lotus Notes or Groove (acquired by Microsoft) collaboration tools, mainly because the companies I worked for didn't use them, though I have interviewed the famed software designer and watched his colorful career unfold over the years. So when Ozzie's latest venture, Talko, released its free calling/messaging app for iPhones today, I decided I would give it a whirl and rope my colleague, Michael Cooney, into testing it with me.

Another colleague, Tim Greene, wrote our story on Talko's unveiling but couldn't play with us since as our Microsoft reporter he wields a Microsoft Phone. Talko is available only on the iPhone for starters, with Android and web versions in the works. Alas, no mention of Windows Phone in ex-Microsoft chief software architect Ozzie's announcement of the app.

I decided to test the product having done a bare minimum of prep in order to really get a feel for how intuitive it is to use. The answer: Pretty intuitive, though there is some trial and error involved, too.

The first thing the app did was hit me up for an email address, which I had to verify by putting in a code that was messaged to me. Talko then, like pretty much every app, tried to get me to hand over my contact list and photos to it -- I said no on the contacts and yes on the photos. Nevertheless, somewhat to my chagrin, I did notice a couple of my contacts showing up, including one who -- non-coincidentally I assume -- works for Talko investor Greylock.

I did, however, add my colleague Michael to my Talko contacts so that we could test the app.

I initiated our newfangled Talko conversation by creating a team ("nw") and inviting Michael to join it. I gave the conversation a name ("Testing Talko") and issued my invite. Initially, Michael didn't respond, so I hit the keyboard icon and texted within the app, asking "Now what do we do?" The app includes an at-first-annoying autofilling keyboard that I got used to soon enough.

In the spirit of hitting as many buttons as possible, I clicked the camera icon and added a disturbing photo of a belly-up frog in my doctor's parking lot from this morning. I then hit the microphone icon and added a voice message about the photo.

Since Michael wasn't picking up right away I changed the status of this conversation from "In Progress" to "Important." THAT got his attention and our voice conversation began (a microphone icon lets you speak, or not). Our ensuing voice chat lasted 13 minutes and 44 seconds, an incredibly memorable bit of palaver that we'll no doubt refer back to over and over again (the audio graph nicely changes colors when the speaker switches). Well, that's the idea anyway: that this app could be used for business meetings that participants can take part in on the fly or dip into later on, playing back the discussion. The audio recordings can be edited and searched through, including at double speed.


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